SuperCity: BPM perfects the vibe
BY CHRISTA WITTMIER / Special to the Star-Advertiser
How about that Coachella lineup for 2014? I was on day nine in Mexico, navigating my way through more than 300 artists and 70 parties at the 2014 BPM Festival when I came across the news while enjoying the utopia of a wifi hotspot and immediately went to check my vacation balance and how many days I had available in April.
What is wrong with me?!? I seriously hope this isn’t going to become a thing. It’s just these sort of events are the exact right level of engagement for me. Constant movement with the option to relax. Tons of people to meet who are like-minded, my age and understand the true meaning of work hard, play hard.
If you ever get the urge to break away — but not completely detach — I highly recommend the BPM Festival. It’s sort of the world’s best kept secret in terms of music festivals, and while the genre is very specific to techno and house music, there is so much that goes along with the people who love this style. Live sets with instruments and creative explorations help just about anyone down here to get into the music being played.
Everyone I talked to agreed that even though it was a packed 10-day festival with almost 10,000 people, the flow and vibe were both magic.
“Last year I came to BPM and thought everything was so great, there would be no way to top it,” said artist Den Ishu. I met him at the Bob Moses live performance at “Scissors and Thread,” which was a nice break from the more crowded previous shows. This one had a more intimate venue and crowd.
It was so easy to meet and talk to people, and then it became surreal for me when he shyly revealed he also had a music project, called Satin Jackets.
I held back telling him that one of his tracks was on my “Best of 2012″ mix and instead punched my contact info into his phone. Meeting people down here was already making way more of an impact than I could have imagined.
Meanwhile, as we walked out the door, Bob Moses’ vocalist ran out of the stage area after us, making sure he had a chance to give a member of our group a hug.
This is the environment where relationships and friendships flourish at the soul level.
“The event is just improving each year.” Ishu continued. “Everybody feels at peace and harmony and that ends up in a special mood at almost every event.”
I bumped in to him again and again throughout the week. Even though there was a steady flow of three or four day parties, four or five night parties and other pop-up surprise parties, you would keep seeing the same people everywhere. I loved it.
Maryrose Moses is a respected Chicago promoter who has been in the house music scene for more than a decade. She was part of the core group of industry heads who have attended BPM since its start.
We talked about some of the week’s stand-out moments, which for her included the “Planet E Showcase” with Stacey Pullen, Carl Craig and Davide Squllace.
“They put it on as a movement event,” she said. “It was straight up no fuss, just pure classic tehno tracks. Carl ended with the White Stripes’ ‘Seven Nation Army’ as the sun was coming up with everyone’s hands in the air.
“It definitely turned out to be the party of the night, and when I looked around all the heads that know what’s up were there to see it.”
When I asked about any specific mass marketing campaigns that got so many amazing people all the way down here and back every year, BPM co-creator Craig Pettigrew said there were none.
“We would much rather build a core audience that really is true to the brand and true to the music than do something just to get a bunch of people in the doors,” he said.
Pettigrew had come over to say hello when I was sitting with BPM director of operations Alessandra Axelsson. Both of their eyes literally sparkled when they talked about the festival’s early years.
“Nothing will replace that first year, it was very special. We started out with four venues and it was very intimate.” Pettigrew said. “But you know what, if you know 10 cool people, they probably have 10 cool friends, and that’s who we see coming back each year.”
It was day six when I talked to them as we shivered together in the outdoor “Baltic Lounge,” three floors up from “Kool Beach.” The rain had not stopped since day one and everything I brought to wear was still packed away in my suitcase. A pair of MC Hammer-style leggings, a soft scarf and jacket I bought at a nearby mall had become my festival uniform.
“You see rain in the forecast all the time down here,” said Axelsson, who is from Canada but now lives full-time in Mexico. “But that just means maybe a 20-minute rain shower on an otherwise beautifully sunny day.”
Nobody expected it to be a nonstop torrential downpour, however, so few were prepared.
Growing from 10 employees to 590, BPM has great local relationships and after working around the clock on the phones, they had all of the outdoor venues covered and back in action by day two.
When the sun finally did appear later in the week, it brought with it a huge surge of energy to take us through the second weekend. By then, we had partied in a cave, took over the street at a taco stand and partied again until the sun came up in a jungle. We could have easily burned out by then, but instead had a new-found energy which easily blasted us through the closing events.
On a constant journey to engage with other cultures, learn from my colleges around the world, and always be turned on to new music, I pretty much had everything I could ever want at this festival. There were quite a few lessons learned, but thinking back now, I’m happy there were obstacles to get past. It made me appreciate everything so much more.
Coming back home to begin tackling another very busy year, I’m totally in the right mindset.
Guess I’ll probably just watch Coachella online this year.
BPM Festival Travel Guide:
» Grab a Schedule: Parties are listed by name not artist, so it can get confusing unless you grab the official schedule for the festival. It’s also super cool to see all the flyer art.
» Pack Light: Comfortable clothing more than sexy dresses if you don’t normally wear sexy dresses. Bring at least one outfit suited for cold/rain, JUST IN CASE!
» Don’t Plan: If there are artists you absolutely can’t miss, add them to your lineup in the BPM app, but otherwise leave your schedule open for the music label showcases and pop-up events.
» Network: Bring your business cards, even if you are just on vacation. There are some very heavy hitters in the music and hospitality industries who don’t miss this event. I saw Willis Haltom introducing himself and handing his card to everyone he met, a mega-super-pro move for a Hawaii-based artist and producer who runs his own label.
» Extend Your Stay: Most of the good parties happen in Tulum after the festival when the people who make it all happen are finally able to get down.
Christa Wittmier has chronicled Honolulu nightlife since 2004. She is senior marketing director at Young’s Market Co. of Hawaii and executive director of music for POW! WOW! Hawaii, and also helps promote the popular “Bacardi Pool Party” on Oahu. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.